Night Movement and Tracking Techniques along the Northern Border of Cambodia

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  1. RANGERConners

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    Night Movement and Tracking Techniques along the Northern Border of Cambodia by RANGER Jerry Conners, Chinese Bandit 13...Spring 1966 DOD/ MACV/OP-35 directed Long-Range Reconnaissance Operations

    The Chinese Bandits had been performing extended patrolling operations since their arrival in Vietnam in the fall of 1965 and our SOP's, including mission preparations, had become routine as our teamwork constantly improved. Warning and operations orders were routinely given, however only some priority pre-insertion rehearsals, refresher training and other preparations were performed and were primarily focused on suspected enemy and indigenous population location reports, area studies, route navigation and night movement techniques.
    The tentative routes had been planned for night-only movement that would take place primarily along the ridgeline border of Cambodia or Laos and Vietnam with several routes extending eastward into small valleys and the adjacent hilltops. Contrary to policy, the routes and other critical control points were plotted in black pencil directly onto the topographic maps that we would be carrying. Small penlight flashlights having a red tinted lens were carried by all team members and would be used to read and analyze the maps during periods of darkness when necessary. A small wooded area was located near our Mustang LZ at An Khe where we were billeted in tents. This tree area was used to conduct rehearsals and other refresher patrol training exercises. For a few hours on the day and night prior to the long-range reconnaissance mission, the Chinese Bandit LRRP team conducted refresher drills to improve our track perception skills of on trail and off trail terrain. The drill that was the most beneficial required each man to assume the front leaning rest position with their arms and hands extended in a manner which formed a small square opening between both hands when the thumb tips met and were held perpendicular to the main body axis while the other fingers were oriented parallel. After examining the area between the hands for one minute, each person would mark the limits of the square while kneeling on one knee after removing the small green colored Memorandum booklet and short wood lead pencil from their breast pocket and attempt to sketch what was observed in the square solely relying on their memory of what was observed. We would critique each individual sketch and strived to detect any missing details that were observed but not sketched. During those drills that were conducted in darkness, the prone positioned was omitted but the hand orientation used to delineate the square area that was observed while kneeling where the penlight flashlight was used to illuminate the area being evaluated and sketched.
    I had been shown this drill as a child while training with German Boy Scouts during a scout jamboree held in the black forest and had observed for ten years that everyone subjected to the sketching drill improved to detect more details with practice. Most persons failed to detect a majority of the clearly delineated details within the area being observed during their first attempts. Even relatively undisturbed flat and seemingly feature-less terrain typically contained large amounts of information that was detected and sketched only after practicing in a variety of terrain, light and weather conditions. Indentations, scratches, texture, colors, moisture content, plant, animal and microbial matter, rain drops, etc. were only observed and sketched with practice. In my patrol cap I carried a flexible 12-inch straight edge fabricated from a 2-inch wide strip of thin sheet metal that had issued luminescent taped fixed to one side. The tape was the same material that was used for the markers sewn on the back of our patrol caps. Several others carried the same device that was used to detect depth changes during light and darkness when the straight edge was placed horizontal along the surface being evaluated. During darkness the faint shadows created by the luminescence revealed details that the brighter red light did not and any variation in depth below the straight edge was more evident. Black permanent ink was used to mark twelve inches with halve and quarter inch increments. The scale was used to measure the dimensions of tracks and various items, including wildlife droppings and spent ammunition casings. Longer measurements, such as the distance between tracks, was measured using the luminescent notches made on a walking stick inlaid with foxfire and notched carvings. The captured NVA rucksack that I carried had several modifications that included extending the pack straps to provide a more comfortable fit and enhanced ease of movement; and a section of a shelter half was sewn on the upper frame of the pack forming a cape which was large enough to extend over my head and provide a tent above any trail that was being examined during the darkness when lighting was used. This procedure provided concealment of the lighting and improved the lighting control that was needed to create the shadowing required to detect details. A local Vietnamese tailor whose shop was located near the newly established "Sin City" at An Khe had made the pack modifications. He made several other items for the Chinese Bandits including the special 40mm bandoleers. Since our arrival in country, I had many opportunities to examine the trails and off trail areas where while kneeling over the site being examined, the rucksack would be allowed to slide forward to the back
    of my head, allowing me to easily grab the cape and pull it over my head and cover the trail. I would then remove my patrol cap and the luminescent straight edge and penlight. The luminescent tabs on the back of the cap were also used to create faint shadows when needed.
    Night movement required excellent night vision that demanded a diet containing beta-carotene and Vitamin A. We were concerned that the single LRRP dehydrated ration that we consumed every other day might not provide sufficient amounts of nutrients to optimize night vision and we augmented our diet with the consumption of a variety of green grasses. The soft stems that were pulled from the nodes were the only part of the plant eaten. Although, no tests were performed to confirm the night vision value of the grass consumption, we did not experience night blindness or noticeable night vision decreases after prolonged patrolling. The soft grass stems did not cause observed digestive problems and were filling. One 'Jungle Chocolate' candy bar was also consumed daily by each man and the wild fruits were frequently found in the mountainous areas along the border. Extreme dysentery and bouts with malaria adversely effected night vision performance. Every effort was made for every man to remain in the field and complete the long- range reconnaissance missions along the border; however, men weakened by disease or other debilitating did not perform tracking and other critical duties. On only one occasion was one of the LRRP team members evacuated. Louis Tyler had lost consciousness and we were unable to control the fever that was the result of malaria. He was evacuated by helicopter from a small clearing in the forest that required modifying our route plans and increased the likelihood of our being detected. Tyler's night vision had severely diminished earlier and he was unable to track but merely follow closely behind another patrol member. At least six weeks was routinely required for an individual's body to adjust to the environments of SE Asia and for the initial effects of amebic dysentery and malaria to subside. However, disease and illness was expected to flare up at intervals where persons were expected to function marginally. The Chinese Bandit LRRP Team was comprised of individuals that did not exhibit strong reactions to the diseases experienced in SE Asia. Malaria tolerance in the local population was well documented and it was believed that some otherwise healthy American troops exhibited this same tolerance. Alcohol also diminishes night vision performance and a policy of not drinking alcoholic beverages three days prior to patrols was adopted. Smoking was believed to also have an adverse impact on night vision but was primarily prohibited for reasons related to general health and decreases to the sense of smell. Alcohol and tobacco consumption restrictions were not adhered to by half of the LRRP team members. I regret not enforcing these rules and at the time only chose to lead by
    example. Chewing tobacco was not done during patrols. Spitting along the route would have made it easier to be followed. Our military issued jungle boots and use of walking sticks left distinctive markings that were easily followed unless individual patrol members exercised the necessary precautions. On trail movement was not routinely permitted when the trail surface was easily marked as was the case in soft or muddy conditions. Many areas along our route such conditions were encountered and provided the opportunity for the NVA to leave tracks whereas we did not. During the spring and early summer of 1966, we did not detect any efforts by the NVA to minimize making tracks on trails but made use of camouflage during movement and in their bivouac sites. It is also my belief that their tracking techniques were not exhaustive and unless obvious telltale signs were left, the NVA would not detect our presence nor be successful in their attempts to locate us. Camouflage sticks were never carried and not used since it was believed that prolonged contact with the skin caused infantigo-like infections and the odor masked the natural smells of the environment. Some team members did carry red, black and yellow pastel sticks that were intended to be applied as war paint. Although we had opted to carrying limited weapons and equipment, many of us would not abandon the pastel sticks that had no intended use on a reconnaissance operation where contact was to be avoided at all cost. One of SLA Marshall's books contains a reference to the fact that the Chinese Bandits did not wear camouflage 'paint'. Jungle 'rot' sores were prevented only from frequent stream crossing baths and a constant effort to keep clean using only the available abundance of fresh water. Several photos were taken while in the rear areas that depict members wearing camouflage paste, however, the material was always removed to prevent the infections. Prior to occupying our observation sites during the last several hours of night movement, the LRRP team moved only off trail to minimize being followed; however since anyone following the team for any period of time would have easily concluded that we were following the ridge line trail along the border. This was one of the reasons that we occasionally changed directions and moved into the valleys and occupied hilltop observation points east of the border. I did carry a set of tight fitting black tennis shoes that had the flat and featureless soles that were commonly worn by most NVA. The larger length of the shoe did not allow indiscriminate movement but did optimize my 'counter tracking' efforts. We did request and the
    military did produce military boots with NVA shoe and human print soles. We did not receive these boots in 1966 but I have read of their later use in Vietnam and have received personal correspondence from some of those that used them indicating that the boot design was not without its own problems. Another thing that I would have changed in our Chinese Bandit LRRP Team uniform was the use of an NVA-like tennis shoe. It is also my understanding that some LRRP teams later wore such tennis shoes. During my Special Forces training prior to my assignment to the Chinese Bandits, I had been briefed on the frequent TDY uniform of many Special Forces teams operating in foreign countries that consisted of dark sweat shirts, blue Levis and local tennis shoes. I regret not adopting the use of a local tennis shoes SOP, albeit locating a sizes of the normal American foot size took a concentrated effort. The Chinese Bandits wore a mixture of uniforms including standard issue jungle fatigues, WWII vintage M42 jungle camouflage fatigues with the metal thirteen star buttons, and tiger fatigues. I normally wore one of my father's M42 jungle camouflage fatigues. I had brought two pairs to Vietnam in 1965 and preferred the jacket having the "JUSMAAG" scroll patch on the upper left arm. Both pairs were treated with the stock water repellant that was issued to all companies but rarely used. SSG Robert Grimes preferred and only wore tiger fatigues on long-range reconnaissance operations. The remainder of the team normally wore the standard jungle fatigues and jungle boots; however several of the shorter members wore various items of captured NVA clothing on occasion. The small black leeches seem to prefer attaching to the skin in areas where clothing covered the body. I also carried and frequently wore a pair of issued khaki combat swimming trunks and would don the shorts and remove my shirt when leech infested areas were encountered. The tennis shoes and 'shorts only' dress would have appeared similar to that worn by indigenous personnel who occasionally hunted in the mountains and when observed for a distance had the advantage of appearing non-military. It was not uncommon on long-range reconnaissance operations for me to remain in this form of casual dress for many days. The long-range reconnaissance patrols that we performed in the spring and early summer were not conducted under the monsoon rains and the shorts and tennis shoes were adequate and provided an optimized indigenous appearance. However, I did not recommend this uniform during NATO debriefings and took efforts to conceal that it was a sometimes-preferred means of dressing, especially in the damp 'triple canopy' mountainous terrain where leeches were often encountered. Since our movements were conducted primarily during hours of darkness, a level of tolerance was required
    for the mosquitoes. To my knowledge no other LRRP team members wore shorts during the operations along the border; however, they would have been permitted to do so and observed me wearing them during our daily reassemblies. I also regret not formally recommending this indigenous uniform for use in the central highlands during the dry season. Night movement that incorporated tracking and counter-tracking objectives was the norm and sustaining a 3 km per hour movement rate was easily accomplished in the mountainous regions of the Central Highlands. We were lightly equipped and capable of moving during darkness 25 miles daily; however, the assigned mission areas often permitted moving at much slower rates and allowed for a more thorough search. Small active infrared observation devices were carried and used to examine trails for evidence of tracks and longer distance monitoring. The range of the IR light source was limited to about 50 yards that minimized its long-range applications; however, the opportunity to observe the night activity of animals, including insects, snakes and large mammals was enhanced and aided in keeping the user alert and interested in the nighttime surroundings. Many experiments were conducted using the small device in conjunction with the other luminescent tools to examine and evaluate the trail for tracks and other markings. The IR light source was removed from the IR monitoring unit and placed at different angles to provide detection of depressions or other trail disturbances and was beneficial in analyzing any nighttime situation. In practice, our night movement normally involved evaluation of NVA tracks only at locations where tracks were anticipated. Trail junctions and routes near stream crossings and along muddy sections of the trail and all approaches into our daily observation positions were routinely examined whereas the majority of the route was not examined. Rest halts were never conducted but any possible sight, sound or smell that might indicate NVA contact was investigated which included examining the trail for tracks. It was not uncommon to hear the distinctive singsong voices in the distance and the smell of smoke and other human activity odors during our nighttime movements. Each discovery was evaluated from a distance and recorded in our Memorandum booklets and often plotted on the topographic maps. In the spring and summer of 1966, we did not observe or anticipate the NVA to booby trap or establish ambush sites in the area that they considered as 'no man's' land and the sole domain of the NVA. We took no precautions to detect mines or any other devices along the trail other than normal visual scanning that was often afforded during periods when star and moon light penetrated the trees and during our
    day light scouting in the areas near our assigned day time occupied observation points. It was also observed and widely reported that the NVA noise and light discipline was poor in all areas along the border. The Chinese Bandit LRRP Team had experienced a detect first success since early January and no information had been obtained that movement along the northern borders of Cambodia and southern Laos would encounter an increased level of NVA alertness or an improvement in their noise and light discipline. Suspected regimental size CPs were plotted on the aerial photographs that we were provided during the early planning stages of each LRRP mission and updated with daily reconnaissance flights including that performed my the LRRP team leaders using OH-13 aircraft. Each trail leading into the suspected NVA sites was thoroughly evaluated for evidence of enemy usage. One of the most important mission preparations was the conduct of a thorough map study by each individual team member and construction of the 'sand table'. Each person was required to 'spider overlay' their individual topographic maps where a red colored lead pencil was used to trace down each ridgeline and finger to the intercept with the valley floor and a blue or green colored lead pencil was used to trace up the smaller valleys until intercepting the hilltops of the area that encompassing the first days movement after insertion. As this process was completed, the topographic map became a spider-like network of red and blue lines that gradual became denser. This same exercise was conducted to some degree during the daytime prior to each day's night movement. The procedure assisted in visualizing the terrain in three dimensions and forced focus on the terrain along our intended routes. The subsequent daily routes were only partially delineated with the red ridgeline and valley traces.
    Once each individual had satisfactorily completed their spider overlays, some members created a 'sand table' of the entire route. The table was created directly on the cleared ground near our tents at An Khe and consisted of one-foot equals two kilometers scaled squares that contained mounded dirt to outline the hilltops and valleys. The vertical scale was exaggerated but done in a manner that 'line of sight' could be visualized. Each observation and assembly point, including emergency escape assembly points, preplanned fire target and the expected NVA regimental CPs were marked using items cut out of paper. The table was large and did not contain the topographic detail of our spider overlay topographic maps. Mastery of topographic maps and terrain association was essential and required of each long-range reconnaissance patrol member and taught to all members of the entire Chinese Bandit Recon Platoon. Any Chinese Bandit that did not
    demonstrate the ability to 3D visualize topographic maps in the spider overlay and sand table exercises was not permitted to conduct long- ranger reconnaissance or combat operations. In addition, each man was expected to know the meaning of every mark and label on the topographic maps in use. No 'pace-counts' were performed during night movement and persons were expected to have memorized the topography and other critical information of the entire day route prior to departing each day.
    Stevens, my RTO was also expected to be aware of his actual coordinate position, at all times, within six digits WITHOUT consulting his topographic maps. Stevens conducted map checks at all high and low ground points. He mastered this skill after only two months of effort and could call for a fire mission or provide approximate coordinates in the event of an emergency in a matter of seconds. He was the only person expected to be making map checks on a regular basis and no one was in a position to discuss their map location with him, including myself. When unexpected enemy or other critical sites were located, the positions were posted on each man's topographic map. It was interesting to compare these plots with those of the other team members during the occupation of our daily observation positions. Any errors in plotting were resolved and corrected on each man's topographic map. No actual overlays were used but all notes and plots were made directly onto each man's map, although the procedure was in contradiction with normal security procedures, we did so to ease movement and minimize what was carried. The reconsolidated maps and notes that were submitted after each operation were placed over new maps and overlay paper was used during after action debriefings. The actual green Memorandum books and topographic maps were NOT submitted for examination and some of these documents survive today. I sent one Memorandum book home to my father and younger brother that contained sections describing me following wild or escaped elephants for a day in addition to the other information that I recorded. Again, these protocols were add odds with what was expected but the information was normally used and shared with the entire Chinese Bandit Recon Platoon and the information was deemed beneficial enough to warrant deviation from normal policy. I have no doubt that intelligence specialists will find fault with what we did. We deviated from dress uniform, communications and intelligence reporting and policies. Sometimes to achieve what was required in the most optimized manner, and at other times motivated only by our own zeal regarding collecting intelligence information at close quarters with the NVA. Everyone understood the strategic and tactical importance of not being detected or leaving evidence behind that would alert the NVA to our operating in the area. Any increased vigilance on the part of the NVA
    operating along the border would have made ground reconnaissance operations significantly more difficult and dangerous. Although we were confident that we would not be discovered, three response plans were developed in the event the Chinese Bandit LRRP team was detected or suspected of being detected by the NVA or any other indigenous personnel. In the event of detection resulting in the exchange of fire, our sole strategy was to immediately break contact and run rapidly to pre- designated assembly points that were located along the route. In the event that we did not successfully transmit our daily surveillance report and the report received by the overhead airborne Air Force aircraft, then a search and recovery operation was to be launched immediately in the area between our last reported position and the next scheduled reporting point. The search area was to be expanded to all areas along the route until the Chinese Bandit LRRP team was recovered or until the decision was made to abort the search and recovery efforts. Each man carried a VS-17 panel and signal mirror that would allow for the marking of extraction sites near each pre- designated assembly point. Breaking contact did not emphasize keeping the six team together but an 'every man for himself' approach. The LRRP team was normally spread over a distance of several miles. The team carried only one radio and the operator followed the LRRP Team leader and maintained a line of sight distance from him or closer as the situation required. The radio operator also responsible for initiating calls for fire support and maintained a constant awareness of the adjacent pre-planned fire missions that would be provided solely by aerial fire support. In the event of an attack, the radio operator would call for fire support while running to break contact and the Chinese Bandit LRRP Team leader was to make every effort to join his radio operator and move together towards the pre-designated assembly of their choice. All other team members normally were extended beyond line of sight distances and any effort at regrouping would have decreased the flexibility needed when evading any pursuing NVA troops. In any situation where we were detected by the NVA or indigenous personnel but not fired upon or being pursued by them, then an effort was to be made to assemble the team and move together and coordinate for an extraction of the team. In either the detection scenarios, it was important for team members to assess any heard rifle or other small arms firing to determine if the firing was that of the NVA and if the fire was directed at one or more of the Chinese Bandits. Since the NVA were using some US and other foreign weapons during this period of the Vietnam War, merely hearing the sound of small arms fire and determining the weapons type by sound did not provide confirmation
    of detection or engagement. Although it was observed that the NVA rarely discharged weapons unless in an actual engagement, it was important that any Chinese Bandit LRRP Team member not assume that other members were engaged merely by the sound of weapons fire in the vicinity of the patrols route. We had the opportunity to make use of Air Force emergency radios that could have been carried by each member of the LRRP Team. We failed to take advantage of these radios that would have provided improved communications to coordinate the decisions for aborting missions and inter-team coordinations during critical situations. It was believed that the threat of our detection was greatest by indigenous persons and not the NVA. Generally, the local population knew the area better and often hunted on and off trail areas. The discovery of off trail disturbances and any discarded items, intentional or otherwise, that we made during our movements could be expected to have been made by anyone moving and slowly stalking prey. We made many inquiries to determine if the local population were using the trails and hunting and gathering crops in the mountainous areas along the border and were informed that such activities were rare now with the large presence of NVA and Saigon backed forces frequenting the region. Our patrolling confirmed this assessment, however, we remained vigilant and concerned that any disturbances or debris left behind would be discovered by the local hunters and those collecting food from abandoned slash and burn fields and our presence reported to the NVA. In 1965 and 1966, many of the local population where still hunting and carrying homemade crossbows and arrows; rifles made from steel pipe using a threaded cap at one end and a hole drilled near the rear having a spring loaded hinge which detonated a toy pistol cap... the pipe was normally mounted to a carved wooden stock and secured by wire; and vintage Japanese and other bolt action rifles and pistols. Boys and men of all ages actively hunted and fished in areas near any hamlet unless military units, any military unit, were operating in the area. The threat of booby traps was not yet a widespread problem and these local area hunters would reenter their hunting areas when the military units were believed to have departed. They wore a variety of clothing and were often barefoot. The older men often hunted large game, including elephants, barking deer, anteaters, and gibbons and monkeys. Monkey blood and whiskey was a ceremonial drink amongst many of the upland high peoples. One hunting technique involved occupying positions, often in trees, near watering areas, and shooting the animals at close range. Another method specific to gibbon hunting involved slow cross-county movement where gibbons were heard in the high trees and then shooting a female gibbon which was carrying her
    baby. The dead female was used for food and source of blood and the baby gibbon sold in the market place and often shipped to larger cities and abroad to traders and zoos. Locals also placed fish traps in the larger streams and rivers and frequently traveled to these locations and removed any fish that had been captured. These locations were especially well traveled and recorded on our maps as possible contact sites with the local populations. These indigenous hunters were our greatest threat, not the NVA, and unless counter tracking methods were used and used well, then we would be detected or evidence of our being in the area detected after our extraction. Fortunately I had hunted with the hill tribes of SE Asia prior to my assignment to the Chinese Bandits and my focus always including the effort to locate the local hunters, who were encountered on occasion and our detection by them was thought to have been avoided. I believed at the time and now that any special operations-like teams should spend a minimum of one month hunting with local populations in the area of operations or an adjacent country with a nearly identical environment immediately prior to conducting any long-range reconnaissance operations in a hostile area. Waste disposal was stressed and necessary to minimize detection. Our waste disposal and minimization protocols included the following: We consumed the wax paper wrapper of the 'jungle chocolate bars'; We only carried the dehydrated food portion of LRP ration and retained the plastic wrapper that was later used to package any items collected. The plastic bags were licked clean and filled with stream water again and drank to recover any nutrients; We only carried one white plastic spoon that doubled as a vertical half rhombic antenna insulator (this antenna was for emergency use only)...airborne aircraft were on station above during scheduled transmissions...if the spoon broke than the parts were carried; We carried only one toothbrush that was used often without paste or other cleaner. It was a common practice for persons to often keep the toothbrush in their mouths even after the sweet flavor of the paste was gone; No soap or other personal hygiene items were carried or used. We regularly rinsed daily during the stream crossings and routes were partially selected to provide this opportunity;
    Mosquito repellant was carried by some members but not permitted for use unless 'approved'...the small black leeches were often left in place...many deviated from this policy; No extra clothing (many deviated from this policy also)...including dry socks, combat swimming trunks, tennis shoes, and distinctive headgear. We stayed wet after rains and streams crossings; No toilet paper was carried and wiping was done with vegetation or the bare hand which typically required scheduling immediately prior to stream crossings to allow for washing up. Feces were buried carefully off trail and with the assumption would be uncovered by animals. With the minimal amount of food that we were able to carry and consume, bowel movements were not common or were the growth of body hair; Urination was performed also off trail on forest litter and along the sides of already saturated tree trunks; Trail blazing debris in mountains along the Laos and Cambodia Borders was done using foxfire branches which were replenished at night and placed on the ground along the right side of the trail using four symbols ( up; DANGER LEFT; DANGER RIGHT; and DANGER AHEAD). The last man in the formation recovered the foxfire that was given to the lead person during each morning assembly at the designated observation points; Foraged food waste such as fish bones of rotted fish removed from stream traps were placed in pockets until dry and then 'chewed'; fruit pits were 'sucked on'...savored like the wrappings of the 'jungle chocolate bar' wrappers and eventually buried in the same manner as feces; the wild limes that were consumed skin and all as were the other food found around abandoned slash and burn areas; Rifles, pistols, knives and machetes were cleaned with soap and water prior to missions and shaken in the water at stream crossings and a new round was chambered daily. Ammunition was not oiled but wiped down when initially transferred to magazines in base camp. We did not experience weapons malfunctions during test firings before and after operations; If the 101st Recondo emergency soap dish wrapped to our LBE was opened to administer morphine or other drugs or to perform suturing, then the contents were resealed and rewrapped with the old tape. The tape was good for reuse if the effort was made to keep it untangled while removing or at least good enough until the mission was completed; All LRRP personnel were to be non-smokers and or chewers since both
    diminish the sense of smell. Many deviated from this policy but NOT when on LRRP operations and therefore waste disposal for these items was not a factor; During 1965 and early 1966 drug use was not prevalent and NO Chinese Bandit LRRP Team members were pot heads or had smoked POT or used other drugs; therefore no disposal issues regarding drug use were necessary. There were other waste disposal procedures and many were very detailed and constantly evolving. The topics included sharpening pencils, etc. It was a mistake to wear anything other than clothing that resembled the NVA or the indigenous populations, however, each of us wore uniforms that were preferred and reflected sentiments rather than optimized for the terrain, weather and enemy situation. I regret not studying more carefully the enemy and local attire, and then specifying a uniform that was more appropriate. In the case of the dry season along the border in 1965 and early 1966 that uniform would have included combat swimming trucks, that have the large leg openings which provided ease of movement and good air circulation and tennis shoes that had soles identical to that worn by some of the NVA and local population. We did request and the military did produce a jungle boot having human footprint and NVA soles. The boots were not available until after the Chinese Bandits were disbanded and I have been informed that some special operations teams did use them and found them inadequate for a number of reasons. A third and not well developed or approved escape protocol was discussed amongst team members that considered escape routes through Laos and Cambodia to the safe refuge afforded by Thailand which was located approximately 250 kilometers from the tri-border area where the Chinese Bandit LRRP operations were performed. Operating along the border line afforded escape routes in both directions and the decision was made that each LRRP Team member had the discretion to use the best terrain during their escape efforts and that cross border maneuvering was not prohibited. When patrolling along the actual border, fifty percent of the terrain that afforded the best escape route was located beyond the border of South Vietnam. Each team member carried a portion of a 'one over the world' scale topographic map that encompassed the tri-border area of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos that also included the area extending to the border of Thailand. Area and other order of battle information were requested for both sides of the border and this information contained the same degree of detail. We had been provided road maps of the same regions that depicted the general geography, including cities and land usage. Copies of these maps were not carried during operations along the border but were studied to
    evaluate the feasibility and potential routes of escape that would provide adequate concealment for night movement and possible foraging opportunities. We did seek approval for this cross border escape option but each man knew that it was an option if the approved escape protocols were deemed more dangerous. If this option had been executed during the later days of any long-range reconnaissance mission, then our carried food supply would have been depleted and therefore, foraging near hamlets and fields that were encountered would have taken place. Night cross-country routes in heavily forested areas were deemed safer than any movement near occupied hamlets and villages. Dogs, pigs and other domestic animals were typically alert at night and any disturbances would have been investigated, therefore, the plan was to proceed without attempts to gather foods and maintain a minimum 25 kilometer per day rate of movement when enroute towards Thailand. It would not have been difficult and the option was viable. The escape plan options permitted the team to focus on locating the enemy and performing the evaluations that were feasible from a distance and maintaining such distance that minimized any chance encounters with the NVA or being detected. The Chinese Bandit LRRP Team used foxfire, an aid to night tracking and trail marking extensively in the spring and summer of 1966. Foxfire covered branches were placed along side of trails to provide information to following team members and to provide additional nighttime illumination. The branches were collected by the last man of the patrol and redistributed when the team reassembled during the daily occupation of the observation assembly areas. Constant efforts were made to identify the plants and animals of the Central Highlands and the understanding provided immeasurable benefits. Leaves from the several trees that provided the most common encountered edible wild fruits were collected and provided to intelligence staff on completion of previous patrols and we were informed of the name of the tree, where the trees were expected to grow and some information that confirmed the edibility and nutritional value of the fruits that augmented our diet. Spider webs were especially interesting to team members and when it was observed that certain species of web tending spiders erected their webs at different times of night and in different types of habitat and at different heights above the trail surface, several us made the effort to evaluate web encounters as an indicator of recent trail activity. The webs were often easy to detect in certain nighttime light conditions and any disturbed or damaged web was reason to suspect the presence of something that recently passed along the trail. It was also observed that some species of spiders erected their
    webs early in the evening and removed them early in the morning. Any disturbance of these webs was a good indication that the damage had occurred during the same night when they were encountered. We later made requests for more information of the spider web building activities but were not provided any follow-up information on the subject. Many suspected animal nighttime sounds were investigated. Moving files of ants often created a noise that was suspected to be the sound of a crawling snake. Each suspected 'crawling' snake investigation resulted in the discovery of insects moving in a file formation. Many snakes were encountered but few at night and they were never found by any sound that was made but solely by visual detection. The large black jungle forest scorpion also was solely detected by visual sightings. Our knowledge of the preferred habitat of mosquitoes and the small black land leeches enabled us to avoid them to some extent. When they were encountered we typically deviated from our intended route and occupation sites to escape them. Drier and areas having more air movement were areas preferred for movement and observation points. However, frequent encounters with mosquitoes and leeches could not be avoided and mosquito repellent was used against both of these pests, despite our internal policy not to do so. The repellent greatly reduced the sense of smell of anyone using the liquid and every effort was made to restrict the use of the repellent and stream crossings provided the opportunity to bath and wash away the liquid and smell of it. We had decided that the repellent would not be carried on the LRRP operations along the border; however, several persons did not comply with this requirement and we all shared the repellent when invested with the leeches. Soap, toothpaste and other lotions were also not carried or used by any Chinese Bandit LRRP team member. Toothbrushes were carried and used often. Gun solvents and weapons cleaning equipment was not carried either. We relied solely on frequent stream crossings to clean our bodies, uniforms and equipment, including shaking the rifles vigorously in the water. All equipment including weapons had been washed with soap and water since November 1965 and little oils or solvents could be detected on them. Our ammunition was not washed but wiped dry of any oils. The M16 rifles only required re-chambering a round each day to remain functional and prevent jamming. In the few situations when we did fire our weapons no misfires had occurred during the long-range reconnaissance operations that were only scheduled for a two-week period. Test firing in base camp or during patrols that were deemed 'secured' did not result in weapon malfunctions. I later opted to carry my personal Browning Hi-Power M35
    pistol with only one fully loaded magazine. The pistol was carried in a brown issued shoulder holster. It was cumbersome to carry a M16 rifle that was the LRRP teams designated personal weapon and the walking stick that I used. The rifles were typically carried at the 'Ranger carry' with slings removed and silenced with duct tape wrappings and strips of camouflage fabric. While moving at night with the rifle it was necessary to store the walking stick between my harness straps near my waist and could do so only in vegetation that provided a four-foot wide ease of movement. The foxfire inlayed stick was used primarily for trail signaling at night and carrying the Browning pistol provided improved ease of movement. The pistol had a blue finish and would easily rust without daily cleaning with solvents and oils. I decided to not clean the pistol and intended to rub off any rusting using 'elbow grease' only. The pistol was purchased as a used weapon and was in excellent condition but was rusted and pitted after only one week of patrolling and attempting to rub off the rust that began accumulating immediately after washing the pistol in hot water and soap at base camp. The Browning was left in the rear for the remainder of my tour and I carried a cleaned with water and sand only issued M1911A1 during subsequent patrolling. A new round was chambered in the .45 caliber pistol each morning and did not malfunction when test fired or during target practice. I can still remember the smell of the odors of gun solvents, oils and insecticides that permeated the tents at base camp. Other than our own sweat and the odor of our food, the Chinese Bandit LRRP Team smelled of the surrounding mountainous jungle. The importance of not using any substance that would decrease our sense of smell was emphasized daily when the odor of smoke and animals and people that were encountered were detected from distances that required training, experience and vigilance. Bandit LRRP team members were instructed to moisten their nose hair using fresh water to enhance their sense of smell and were required to practice 'sniffing the air' which required shifting the head and seeking out air movements that were expected due to the prevailing wind and air movements created by topography and moving water. Heightening the sense of smell, hearing and vision was always practiced when we 'lay dogged' after insertions and during the frequent encounters with variations in vegetation, weather, topology or light conditions. Not being detected and detecting required our constant efforts at improvement.

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